Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Seasonal Consignment Sale Owner, Jenifer Gifford, Is Sharing Her Shoestring Start-Up Success Through Her New Book Consignamania™ ~ The How To Guide To Starting Your Own Seasonal Consignment Business

I’ll never forget the first time I discovered the world of consignment sales – it was soon after the birth of my first child Austin in 2000. I was instantly drawn to the incredible prices of the gently used children’s items.

2003 brought the birth of my second son Aaron and after buying, selling, and volunteering at these seasonal events for three years, I became convinced that I could start a consignment sale on my side of town – one that was better organized, easier to participate in, and had a charitable purpose.

You probably won’t be surprised to find that most seasonal consignment sales are hosted by stay at home moms on a shoestring budget. Here’s why:

  • These events are held two to three times a year and are only around for a week to ten days.
  • They are low overhead events. Sure, you have all your usual expenses such as rent, insurance, advertising, etc, but because of the short time involved, there are no long term commitments or ongoing expenses.
  • Your consignors provide you with your inventory. They hang it and tag it, and bring it to you ready to be sold. At the end of the event, any unsold merchandise goes back to the consignor, or is donated to a charity of choice.
  • These events are staffed primarily by volunteers who line up to help just so they can have the first choice of merchandise and usually get the best prices.
  • Each event takes approximately six weeks of preparation time – and most of the work can be done at home, on the computer, at any time.
  • Regardless of the economic climate, the need for quality, used children’s items is incredibly high, so most seasonal consignment sales thrive even in tough economic times.

Here’s how I did it… To fund my start-up budget, I sold a piece of art work that I bought in college. I was fortunate have made friends with another sale organizer who would mentor me, and in March of 2005, I began my own sale,
Once Around the Block Kids. My road to success wasn’t without roadblocks, however. The toughest part about hosting a sale, what no one ever tells you, is finding a location. Before I could get Once Around the Block Kids up and running, I searched for six months to find a venue that would work for my one week event. The inability to secure a good location (or the loss of their location) is the most common reason a sale goes out of business.

Once that roadblock was overcome, I am proud to say that I broke even on that first sale – and all my sales since have made money! I now have limited my sale to 350 consignors (and always have a lengthy waiting list for others who wish to participate) and have 1200 unique individuals who shop each and every sale. I am limited only by the size of my location, but as I mentioned before, locations are extremely hard to come by and I love where I am, so I chose to cap my growth rather than try to find another location.

I use common Microsoft® programs to run my sale (Excel®, Word®, and Publisher®). While sale automation software can be purchased that can help automate the process and reduce the hands-on time involved, I prefer to spend time personally managing my sale. This allows me to communicate with my consignors and participants, rather than for them to be a number on a schedule. The personal touch is something that is important to me, and I feel that it is what separates me from the 90 or so consignment sales in the greater Nashville area.

One of the things that I love the most about my sale is that I have a core team of eight people who assist me. Each one has strengths in areas where I have weakness. They afford me the ability to oversee the process, rather than being in the trenches each day, and they manage the 90+ other volunteers that help my sale run smoothly. After being together all this time, we have figured out where each person fits into the puzzle that makes my business successful. Some do marketing, some are responsible for tallying the tags, others are great organizers – but each one allows me to handle the overall management of the sale without becoming bogged down in the minutia. And, they are all volunteers.

By 2009, I had received so many requests to do consultations and start-ups of other sales, that I started working on a book to teach others how to run a successful consignment sale. In June of 2010, I launched my new product venture entitled: Consignamania™- The How To Guide To Starting Your Own Seasonal Consignment Business. Consignamania™ is 196 pages of lessons learned, answers to hard questions facing new sale organizers, and proven techniques for hosting a sale that is both profitable and fun for everyone involved.

The best advice I can give to new entrepreneurs is to be passionate about what they do.

I love what I do. I spend time each day thinking about how I can better my business. I love helping others and my consignment sale allows me to help my community in ways that I could never imagine. Single-handedly I could never help 100 inner city children – but by donating the use of my sale to a local non-profit each November, my consignors, my buyers, and my volunteers, all make that possible! I can’t think of a better way to spend a part of each and every day – can you?

Jenifer Gifford

Consignment Sale Owner and Author of Consignamania™- The How To Guide To Starting Your Own Seasonal Consignment Business

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